White House Economic Advisor Rejects Smaller Stimulus Checks

by Christy Bieber | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on Feb. 3, 2021

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Chances are good that Republican efforts to shrink the size of the next stimulus check are doomed to fail.

President Joe Biden and other Democrats campaigned on the promise of providing a $2,000 stimulus check to help families cope with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the new president proposed a $1.9 trillion relief package, Biden aimed to make good on his promise by including a $1,400 payment. This would combine with the $600 recently delivered to Americans under a December bill signed by President Donald Trump -- thus allowing individuals to net a total of $2,000.

Republicans, however, have expressed concern about passing another large stimulus package and have put forth a counterproposal that would provide just $1,000 stimulus checks. The income limits for these checks would also be lower.

But while Biden met with the Republican senators about their plan, White House advisors have indicated that the administration is not interested in scaling back the size of the direct payment to Americans.

Biden unlikely to lower the size of the third stimulus check

Jared Bernstein, a White House economist and member of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, discussed the Republican's counterproposal on MSNBC on Monday night after Biden spent several hours meeting with GOP senators at the White House.

Bernstein made clear that reducing the size of the proposed stimulus check from $1,400 to $1,000 was likely a nonstarter. And, in fact, while he said Biden had found some common ground with Republicans, he highlighted the dispute over the size of the direct payment as a key point of conflict.

"I believe, from some comments coming out of the White House tonight, they're scaled back at a level that the president would judge to be too far," Bernstein said, referring specifically to the reduction of the stimulus payment amount.

Other White House aides have also indicated that while the president was open to negotiating on setting stricter income limits for eligibility, the size of the payment was not likely to change in order to gain support from the GOP.

As a result, while Biden has said his preference is a bipartisan plan, his refusal to budge on the amount of stimulus checks or on the scope of the total relief bill is likely to make that difficult. That's especially the case since Democrats are unwilling to delay the passage of another COVID-19 bill to engage in a lengthy negotiation process.

In fact, Bernstein also made clear that Biden and his administration "will not slow down our work on the urgent crisis of responding to our health care and economic dual crises, and he will not settle for any package that fails to meet this moment…"

The bottom line is Biden doesn't have to. Democrats don't need Republican votes to pass a stimulus bill as long as all of the members of their caucus vote in favor of it. While legislation ordinarily must be able to get 60 votes to overcome a senate filibuster, Democrats can use a process called "reconciliation" to move a bill with just 51 votes. They currently have 50 seats in the Senate, and Vice President Kamala Harris can serve as the crucial 51st vote.

Since it's unlikely Biden will cut back on the payment amount and since Democrats have indicated passing stimulus relief is their top priority, it's very possible Americans could soon see $1,400 payments hitting their bank accounts.

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